Tue, Feb 18, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chou case no disgrace for the DPP

Former DPP legislator Chou Po-lun's (周伯倫) six-year jail sentence for his involvement in the Ronghsing Park scandal has been the subject of much debate. Many politicians believe that Chou has been sacrificed on the altar of judicial reform. Others feel that the 14-year delay in getting a verdict in the Ronghsing affair is merely a matter of justice horribly delayed.

From a judicial perspective, Chou's sentencing is not a matter of political influence leading to a wrongful sentence. His accusation that five Supreme Court judges handed down their ruling without a careful review, his request for an extraordinary re-trial and a farewell party to see him off to jail were nothing more than an attempt to create a political future for himself once he gets out of jail. None of these things will have an impact on the justness of the judiciary.

Chou is one of the few serving legislators to be convicted and sent to jail in the past decade or so -- although he lost his seat last month when he was found guilty. During the KMT-era, the only ones to go to jail were former legislators Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介) and Tsai Chen-chou (蔡辰洲).

But Chou has been closely associated with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his status within the DPP was high. He has served as Chen's assistant. When running for a city council seat, he called himself a student of Chen's. He has also been convener of the DPP's legislative caucus. The fact that someone of his political stature abstained from either pulling strings to avoid going to jail or organizing public demonstrations to protest his conviction, shows Chou's and the party's respect for the law. Such an unusual -- for Taiwan -- move is worthy of appreciation.

But Chou is not the only leading light of the DPP to face legal problems because of corruption allegations. Yu Chen Yueh-ying (余陳月瑛), senior advisor to the president, has been indicted by prosecutors in connection with the Zanadau affair and could face a four-year sentence if found guilty. The Yu family of Kaohsiung is the single most important family for the DPP in the south of the country. Yu Chen's indictment breaks the myth of politicians as untouchables.

In the KMT era the judiciary was always a political tool. The KMT leadership even allowed some politicians to get away after they were implicated in corruption cases. Former legislator Wu Tse-yuan (伍澤元), who was hand-picked and cultivated by KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), later fled to China while on medical parole. Gloria Chu (朱婉清), Lien's former office director, fled to the US following an embezzlement scandal involving government funds.

The actions of the DPP administration, in contrast, have been a major improvement in terms of judicial independence. The party demanded Chou respect the judiciary's ruling while Yu Chen resigned as senior advisor to the president as soon as she was indicted.

The DPP was elected because the people resented the KMT's legacy of corruption. In the three years of DPP rule, there have been corruption cases at both the central and local government levels, such as the vote-buying scandal in the Kaohsiung City Council speaker's election. But the DPP has tried hard to avoid falling into the "black gold" quagmire. So far it has managed to keep itself clean fairly well -- despite allegations from opposition politicians.

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